Wednesday, 23 February 2011

King of the Hill HK Island Mountain Marathon - Sunday the 13th of February, 2011

Once again, apologies for my recent lack of updates! I've been sick for the past week and a half... 9 days without a run! A significant length of time for me! I went back and looked through my training log and found that since August 2008, I've only had two "0km" weeks (Sun to Sat without a single run). One of those was a cold/flu while the other was when I got married! Quite a good record really and one I'll be able to slyly preserve thanks to a run last Tuesday (the 15th) and a run today (the 24th).

Anyway, back to the King of the Hill (KOTH) competition! As I left home early on the Sunday morning, the light rain was unexpected (I didn't have quite enough waterproof bags for everything in my run pack, but close enough). The rain coupled with the cold weather and low cloud made for some super atmospheric conditions (even if they probably did play a part in me coming down with a cold/flu/sinusitis).

13/02/2011 KOTH Hong Kong Island Mountain Marathon

The start area was rather crowded, but most of these people turned out to be running the Half Marathon version of the race, and moved out 15mins before us full-on crazys. There were fewer people running the full version than I expected (about 90 finishers) and it didn't take too long before everyone was spread out.

13/02/2011 KOTH Hong Kong Island Mountain Marathon

I spent most of the run hanging with a friendly Canadian I'd met, and traded contact into with, the weekend before (on my long hard trail run). Having a trail partner does have many advantages, one of them being a seldom seen picture of myself on the trail:

13/02/2011 KOTH Hong Kong Island Mountain Marathon

About here I should apologise for the terrible quality of photos from the run. *Everything* was soaked and I didn't have a dry square inch to wipe water off the camera lens before shooting. Thus, all my photos look like the blurry mess above.

The first 15km or so of the run were as expected. Occasional patches of pavement, but largely awesome (albeit very muddy!) dirt trails. As I mentioned above, the mist and low cloud only added to the atmostphere, more than making up for the lack of sprawling vistas. Suddenly, running along a dirt track, we were directed up a goat trail towards the peak. This goat trail degraded into a scrub bash, then to a rock scramble, at times using ancient (maybe not that old - I know how fast ropes age here, but pretty old) weathered ropes to climb slippery rocky sections (even including a rusty old ladder tied into the rock face and surrounding trees). This all culminated in a scramble up a mud slide using trees and branches to pull ourselves up.

13/02/2011 KOTH Hong Kong Island Mountain Marathon
Don't be fooled by the apparent angle in this photo... trees and branches were a necessity on this trail!

This scramble / climb / slide section was completely unexpected! But don't get me wrong, it wasn't unwelcome! The trail run finally crossed the mountain top, heading down a road on the otherside before veering onto a dirt trail that crossed a mountain stream... oh, we weren't continuing on the trail... No... Our path led down the stream bed! Part scrambling along the muddy banks and part rock hopping (or in my case, ending in the stream and getting my shoes filled with water!) and despite the previous rock scrambling section, I totally wasn't expecting the route to take a turn such as this! And on a side note, while hopping down the stream bed, I couldn't help but think of the many "beware of flash flooding" signs posted on every minor watercourse in Hong Kong, and how the current conditions might be not be an expected time for a flash flood.

13/02/2011 KOTH Hong Kong Island Mountain Marathon
Using a rope up a steep section underneath a power pylon

The last 6km included The Twins, a 900+stair unrelenting stair-master challenge. Thankfully when crossing onto the second of the twins, you only dip into a saddle and the climb isn't nearly as bad. The last 3km was also thankfully rather flat and I did my best to power to the end. I was very thankful to cross the finish line and very depleted. I changed and headed home for a well earned rest.

13/02/2011 KOTH Hong Kong Island Mountain Marathon
13/02/2011 KOTH Hong Kong Island Mountain Marathon

All-in-all, an awesome event, over totally unexpected and exciting terrain. Now I'm starting to get a little anxious about the upcoming 40km Sai Kung version of the event. Hopefully the course will be equally interesting without quite as much vertical challenge!

See you out on the trails!
~ Joe

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